A factor that is often mentioned as a reason for choosing to learn one language over the other, is how easy it is to learn it.
If you’re considering reasons to learn a language, ease of learning ranks among the worst of them. Here’s three reasons why.
1. If ease of learning is your only reason to learn a particular language, you probably lack the right motivation
Quite simply, you need to have a more compelling reason to learn a language than simply because it is not hard and doesn’t take you too much effort. Many people learn a language out of pure interest, or because it is a necessity to survive. These are two compelling reasons to keep the learning process going. Even if you feel the grammar of the language you are learning is relatively straightforward, you are still going to have to learn an entirely new vocabulary.
If you learn a particular language just because it is the one that takes the least effort, you show an unwillingness to put in even the little effort that is needed even to learn a relatively easy language. I’m not saying that the ease of learning cannot be a consideration, but you do need a more compelling motivation to keep going until you reach a meaningful level in any language.
2. No language is easy to learn
Despite what you may see in advertisements for many language learning methods and classes, there is no silver bullet to learn any language without effort. Sure, there are effective teaching methods that can help you to progress faster, but no one can really master a language without investing time and conscious effort.
Even among languages that are closely related, such as German and Dutch for example, you will still need to put in considerable effort. Sometimes ways of saying things appear to be the same across two similar languages, while in actual fact they are just slightly different.
A friend of mine is German and speaks Dutch with near-native fluency. Yet despite his great ability in learning languages, long exposure to the Dutch language and the closeness of both languages, I sometimes catch him using expressions that, while understandable for Dutch speakers, are not quite correct. He encourages me to tell him when this happens, so he can improve on his idioms. Even after many years of learning Dutch, a language supposedly “easy” for him, he is still learning.
3. You won’t know how “easy” the language is before you try
How do you know whether a language is easy to learn, before you start learning it? The only thing you can do is ask other peoples’ opinions. But if you ask 5 different people, you’ll get 5 different perspectives. Some people will feel any language is “easy” to learn simply because they have an aptitude for learning languages in general. Others may tell you a language is difficult, but it could be because they have a different mother tongue from yours, or they might be dyslexic.
I can understand it when someone tries to learn a language but quits learning because it is too difficult. But don’t try to learn a language just because it’s easy. It just doesn’t make sense. We don’t learn to drive a car because it’s easy. We learn to drive because of wanting to be able to get to places by using a car. Some people learn to drive more easily than others, but in the end most of us can learn to be reasonable drivers. The same applies to learning languages.
So, what’s a better way to decide?